Reflection: on blogs and natural selection

15 Apr

Prnewmediaclass Some student bloggers: from left to right, with country of origin. Tor Martin (Norway); me; Elif (Turkey); Olga (back row, Russia); Margarita (front row, Russia), Anderson (Brazil); Nina (Poland); Radhika (India). More students, representing many more nations, were on the other side of the camera. Other class blogs can be found here (scroll down to end of page).

We have a last chance to meet up at the ‘PR and the digital frontier’ talk on 1 May (here’s how to register for free if you’re a student), but otherwise classes have ended, so it’s time for some reflection. Reflection, remember, is something that appears to have been lost according to Marc Prensky:

Reflection is what enables us, according to many theorists, to generalize, as we create "mental models" from our experience. It is, in many ways, the process of "learning from experience". In our twitch-speed world, there is less and less time and opportunity for reflection, and this development concerns many people. One of the most interesting challenges and opportunities in teaching Digital Natives is to figure out and invent ways to include reflection and critical thinking in the learning… We can and must do more in this area.

Prensky published Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (part one, part two) in 2001, before blogs had become mainstream. Now, in 2007-8 with social networks having become the forum for instant, twitch-speed communications, blogs have emerged as a considered, reflective forum for self-expression.

This was a new, oversubscribed and experimental class; so what are my reflections?

Upsides

  • I had long resisted making blogging compulsory in class (it seems illiberal and against the spirit of free expression, rather like making voting compulsory in democracies). But since reflection, critical thinking and ‘learning from experience’ aren’t optional – I’m a convert.
  • The use of PR Blogs by most of the class enables me to pay another tribute to a pioneer in digital PR education, Robert French (who is also behind PROpenMic) and to catch up with other leaders in the field (Karen Russell, Elizabeth Albrycht and others).
  • The mix of MSc Marketing and MA Public Relations students made for some lively discussions.
  • The guest appearance by Anna Farmery is still being discussed; she made a big impression.

Downsides

  • My experiment with ‘open source learning’ was only a limited success. Most students probably need a more didactic approach; culture and language undoubtedly play a part in this.
  • Blogging may be justifiable in educational terms, but it raises awkward political and cultural issues. For example, I learnt that WordPress.com blogs are banned in Turkey (but not PRblogs.org, which also uses WordPress.)
  • I’ve been hugely impressed with some of the MSc Marketing students, but in general I’m dismayed that some are still stuck in an advertising mentality. Just for you, here’s a bonus link: it’s the manifesto from Punk Marketing by Mark Simmons and Richard Laermer (disclosure, Simmons is my brother-in-law). Note in particular articles 5 and 12 – though this all applies equally to public relations.
  • I’ve not finished assessing the student work, but it’s looking more polarised than usual with a much greater range from top to bottom of the class in terms of performance and engagement. In educational terms, this is a bad thing; in vocational terms, it’s how the free market works, so I’m not apologising (yet)…

6 Responses to “Reflection: on blogs and natural selection”

  1. Rachel Todd 15/04/2008 at 8:24 pm #

    Hi Richard
    I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed the class. I have found the assessment methods to be beneficial too – they have reflected the kind of activities that as marketing and PR professionals we will be undertaking in the future.
    Thanks for your work and input into the class.

  2. Delphine Van Hoecke 17/04/2008 at 8:29 pm #

    Hi Richard
    well I guess it is true that people have less and less time to reflect on things in a traditional way… but I think they find new ways of reflecting. For example… isn’t everyone who’s blogging reflecting on things they have picked up in classes, the media, … I don’t think reflection is dead, I think it is just evolving and adapting to new needs of the present society.
    In this post I wold also like to take the oportunity to thank yo for the classes of new media. Even though I wasn’t an ‘official’ student for the class, I enjoyed coming to them. They have opened an entire new and exciting world of social and new media for me. I’m really thrilled about it… now the blog-bugg even bit me🙂
    Thank you!

  3. Elif Esiyok 17/04/2008 at 9:30 pm #

    First things are always special. We(I) learn many things from this lecture. I am very happy for choosing PR and New Media as an optional module because I got a key which opens a door to the world, which introduce me with the world.
    Richard, thanks a lot for giving us a key… I am not going to write everything here because my next topic on my blog will be about PR and New Media lecture🙂

  4. Olga Kamshitskaya 18/04/2008 at 1:31 pm #

    I could say this class completely changed my perception of virtual media world. I didn’t realize the scale of this global process of changing the way of communication with customers. Now before analysing marketing of company, I try to find their blog and read it, cause it’s more real and up-to-date source of info.
    I really like Richard’s style of teaching and oratory and happy, that I chose this option, thank one’s lucky stars!

  5. Richard Bailey 18/04/2008 at 2:09 pm #

    You’re very kind; these comments mean a lot to me. But in my post I was trying to balance the upsides with the downsides of this teaching and learning experience. ‘When it was good it was very very good, but when it was bad it was horrid’…

  6. Tor Martin Nilsen 22/04/2008 at 10:57 pm #

    There are only girls writing comments here!
    Why?
    Don’t guys want to give Richard any pleasant comments to read? And i’m not surprised that there is only PR students (girls) so far.;)
    Since I’m one of 17(give or take) male PR students at the whole of Leeds Met I guess it’s my duty to make a comment so people understand that there are not ONLY girls in Leeds Met’s PR degrees😉
    Thank you for a very interesting module, Richard, and I promise to continue bloging!
    Btw it wasn’t that difficult to talk to those horrid marketing students.😉

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